By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY Under the Friday Night Lights of Mike Whalen Field, the Del Norte High varsity football team looks to continue its successful march in the North Coast Section Class 2A Redwood Empire playoffs.
But it will not be easy for the No. 3 seed Warriors, who bring a sterling 10-0 record to the contest. They will face the 10-1 Healdsburg Greyhounds of the Sonoma County League, who are known to have an aggressive defense and excellent passing game. They are led by senior signal caller Corey Harms, who has 2,074 yards passing and 22 throwing touchdowns. Leading wide receiver, senior Jared Garcia, has 1,202 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
The winner of Friday's battle will take on either No. 1 seed Novato or No. 4 seed Terra Linda, who meet tonight in Novato, next Friday or Saturday.
Del Norte cruised to a 42-6 victory on Saturday at home against fellow Big 5 Conference team Fortuna, while Healdsburg crushed Analy 42-13 on Friday.
"We're excited and very happy to be playing at home," Warrior head coach Lewis Nova said. "We know this will be our toughest game to date. They are a good team, so we have to go out and play hard."
Healdsburg head coach Tom Kirkpatrick came up on Saturday to watch the Fortuna game.
He came away impressed with the Warriors, especially with the way they were able to throw the ball so well in such wet and rainy weather . The rain poured down the entire game, causing the field to become quite muddy. Warrior quarterback Chad Freeman had another amazing game, throwing for four touchdowns and running for one score. He currently has 21 touchdowns passes this season and eight rushing touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman and senior tight end Saxon Schultz both had more than 100 yards of receiving and two touchdowns each in the game. Senior running back Trevor Rook rumbled for 125 yards and one touchdown. In the regular season, he ran for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Kirkpatrick said he was impressed with the way Del Norte plays on both sides of the ball and how they are solid on offense in both the run and the pass.
"They are a very sound football team," he said. "All we can do is play as hard as we can and see what happens."
Nova said the Greyhounds have a formidable passing game and his team needs to put pressure on Greyhounds quarterback Harms, keep him in the pocket and not give him time to make his throws.
Nova added Harms also does a good job running the football and said his team needs to tackle on first contact.
Harms, a two-year starter, is "big, strong and throws the ball well," Kirkpatrick said, adding Harms has a good understanding of the offense and does a great job getting the ball to his receivers, even when throwing under pressure.
With his wide receiver Garcia, Kirkpatrick said he is "very similar to Cody Hoffman" with both having the ability to get open and use their speed downfield to run good routes.
At running back, the Greyhounds suffered a setback over the summer when their leading tailback suffered a torn ACL and is out for the year.
In his place is a "running back by committee system with five guys getting in" Kirkpatrick said.
Andy Phillips is the leading rusher with 369 yards and four touchdowns. Andrew Baroni has 349 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Nova said Healdsburg is "aggressive and quick. They fly to the ball."
He said his offense has "to pick up their blitz packages" and not make mistakes and costly penalties.
If his squad makes too many penalties, a team like Healdsburg will exploit the penalties, which can make all the difference between a win or a loss.
Kirkpatrick said his team plays a "pressure defense" that "tries to get after the quarterback."
He said against a team with a strong quarterback like Freeman, getting pressure will be key.
Kirkpatrick coached Healdsburg for 14 years before stepping down as head coach. After six season away as head coach, he came back this year.